The Table Mountain, a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town, South Africa. The photograph was taken by Jane Nannono.
Amazingly, I did not know what kind of children my husband and I had brought up until our second son called me in the night some years back. He was by then in his second year of a master’s degree in structural design engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. By habit, I never answer the phone once I go to bed. This particular phone rang insistently forcing me to wake up and to check who was calling. It was my son in Cape Town and the time was a few minutes after midnight.
“Mama, I’m terribly sorry to call you at this time of the night.”
My heart sank and I started breathing hard. He continued, “I’m with some Police officers and a friend at the Table Mountains……
“ Are you in trouble?’’
“No, Mama, I’m safe and sound. Unfortunately, my Mozambican friend‘s young brother has not been seen for three days……”
It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to let him finish a sentence. “Why are you at the Table Mountains at this awkward hour?”
“My friend’s brother has been depressed for a while, the last calls he made to his brother and roommate at the university have been traced to the Table Mountains.’’
My hair stood on end on and a cold shiver went down my spine.
My son continued, “My friend was in my undergraduate class but now works in Joburg. He flew in today to follow things through. He needed someone to drive him around and to accompany him where he had to go. I’ll catch up with my lectures later.” He sounded guarded.
“ Have you found the brother yet?’’
“No. His phone is off.’’ He was obviously worried and frightened.
I was touched by my son’s deep- felt concern. “Thank you for being an all-weather friend.
Please keep me updated.’’ I said , almost whispering.
I said a silent prayer for the missing brother, his brother and my son.
As expected, I could not go back to sleep. The call got me thinking about friendship. My father had great friends whom we looked upon as relatives only to learn later in life that they were just friends!
One quote had come to me then: “ Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.’’
And one proverb in my local language when loosely translated says: Tell me who you walk with and I ‘ll tell you who you are.’’ It emphasizes that friends influence us in greater ways than we can imagine.
We take our children to school not only to acquire knowledge but also to develop the right attitude about life, and have a great aptitude for work and to make friends. My best friend and I and most of my long lasting friends befriended each other during our school days, donkey’s years ago!
The American minister and author Robert Fulghum made the same observation when he said that he learned all life’s lessons in Kindergarten. In his book of short essays (1986) his first essay is entitled :All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He listed the lessons that he learned in the American kindergarten classrooms. No. 1 on the list is Share everything – this includes sharing your heart. And number 13 of the 16 on the list : When you go out in the world, hold hands and stick together.
My husband and I always advised our children that when choosing their friends they should look for the goodness in their hearts. We also advised them to choose friends who were smarter than themselves; these could help them get to where they wanted to go.
Later I came across this quote by Tennessee William (1911-1983) a master American playwright: “Life is partly what we make it and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.’’
That same night, I also remembered vividly how my children’s school friends used to gather several times in a week round the corner of our house to play cricket and football. Among the group were boys from Botswana, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, India, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia , Eritrea and Ethiopia. I watched over them from our house. They could come into the house one by one to greet me and collect drinking water, a piece of cake or a fruit. As a mother, I felt terribly comfortable with this arrangement for I always knew where my boys were so I just made sure that there were plenty of home-made scones, cakes and juice.
Fast- Forward in this Digital era, most of those friends are still connected on Social media.
Our children must have been watching us going out to help others and also seen the many friends who used to come to our home for medical advice and help. Most likely this is what inspired them to become ‘all weather’ friends to their peers. King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived tells us in his Book of the Proverbs: “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.”
Much to my relief, following that chilling night, my son rang at dawn to inform me that the missing brother of his friend had been found alive at the Table Mountains and admitted to a hospital. After some weeks of treatment and counselling for depression, he settled down to complete his degree course. My son and his Mozambican friend still visit each other in Johannesburg and Cape Town. They have continued to be there for each other.
This quote by Ernie Banks(1931-2015) the American professional baseball player holds true to them as it does to me: “ Loyalty and friendship , which is to me the same, created all the wealth that I’ve ever thought I’d have.”
They say that the best way to make friends is for you to go out and be a friend.
Thank you for reading this post and may it stimulate you to go out to make and retain friends. Please leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends.